Tyre strategy is well known as an important factor in the Chinese Grand Prix, characterised by its fast corners, smooth surface and plenty of overtaking opportunities.
This weekend Pirelli is taking its P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft tyres to the Shanghai circuit, where last year Lewis Hamilton won the race using a two-stop, soft-medium-medium strategy. The tyre manufacturer expects the combination to perform well in the temperate climate.
Paul Hembery, director of motorsport for Pirelli tyres, explained: “The weather tends to be quite unpredictable in China, although generally we can expect to see temperatures that are significantly cooler than those we experienced in Malaysia.
“Last year we had reasonably stable weather conditions in China whereas in previous years it has been more up and down – so this throws in a very interesting variable.
“The front-left tyre is the most stressed in Shanghai, while the traction demands of the circuit also give a lot of work to the rear tyres.
“Although we haven’t actually yet seen a very hot Chinese Grand Prix during our time in Formula One, if you look at the weather history there is potential for this to happen as well. This would make things very difficult for the tyres – Shanghai is a big, open circuit and if you add in heat, it creates a lot of energy – but we’ve seen from Malaysia that these tyres will rise to the challenge.
“As Shanghai is a large circuit there’s plenty of opportunity for overtaking and big on-track battles. Strategy-wise, we’d normally expect a two-stop race.”
Generally the tyres face their biggest challenge due to the fact that around 80 per cent of the lap in China is spent cornering, which means that energy is nearly always going into the tyres. The frequent acceleration out of the corners means that the drivers have to guard against wheelspin. Downforce levels run by the teams in China are generally medium, in order to maintain optimal top speeds through both the corners and straights.
Cool weather means that graining can be an issue with both compounds, which accelerates both wear and degradation, especially at the front. Plenty of forces go through the front tyres due to the number of high-energy corners – such as turn one, which is almost a full circle – and the heavy braking areas, which causes weight to transfer towards the front of the car.